Senior Days can be bittersweet.
There’s a pregame ceremony in which the athletes’ mothers are given flowers. Soccer players are honored in front of friends and families as they also realize that the end of their high school career is close.
Then there was what the Southold High School boys team accomplished on Tuesday. Not only did the First Settlers play one of their finest games, they became the only team to shut down the vaunted attack of Suffolk County League VII leader Southampton in a scoreless draw.
“I don’t really feel bitter about it because I feel like we left everything out there,” said senior midfielder Joe Silvestro, one four co-captains among nine seniors honored prior to the game. The other captains were goalkeeper Cole Brigham and midfielders/defenders Tyler Woodhull and Stephen Schill.
“It’s a really emotional,” Silvestro said. “The hair on the back of my neck is standing up talking about it. I don’t have any regrets about it. I think it will always be a good memory for me.”
And a big confidence boost for the First Settlers (5-8-1, 5-8-1). The Mariners (12-0-2, 12-0-2), who have outscored their opposition, 55-4, might have been trying to catch their breath after playing Center Moriches in Monday’s bruising 3-3 draw.
“It’s just amazing that a little C school like us could tie a [B] school like them,” Schill said.
“We played our hearts out the entire time,” said Brigham, who made 16 saves. “This was our Senior Night. We wanted to have the best game we could. Sometimes you don’t have to get a win for it to be a win. Getting a tie was a win for us.”
Especially after Southampton defeated Southold, 7-0, on Sept. 18. The Settlers were forced to use their junior varsity keeper then.
When many fans hear about a scoreless draw, they envision a dull game in which nothing much transpires. This game featured end-to-end action with both sides enjoying close encounters.
Southold junior Daniel Palencia almost scored twice, including a hard shot that goalkeeper Ashton Tiffitt tipped over the crossbar with 1 minute and 55 seconds remaining in the first overtime.
While Brigham was superb, it was far from a one-man show. His teammates blocked countless shots or made sure the Mariners shot off target or off-balance.
“You have to communicate so much back there, make sure everyone’s marked up and just getting in front of the shots,” Woodhull said. “Just getting hit with them hurts. It’s a little bit of everything.”
Added Brigham: “They defend me as much as I defend them. I make saves. Most of the time they are getting in front of the shots. They’re making those shots difficult and my job easier.”
The 4:30 p.m. kickoff was delayed by 10 minutes due to the ceremonies. After playing 80 minutes of scoreless soccer, two sudden-victory overtime periods were used to try to determine the winner as darkness set in. Some observers felt the game should have been stopped after regulation, but the referees kept going until they mercifully called it with 5:17 remaining in the second OT.
“Depth perception just got thrown off for me,” Brigham said. “I didn’t know if the ball was at half or just outside the 18. A big disadvantage because if I need to make a save, I need to get the timing right.
“I felt relieved because we got our tie. We didn’t want to lose it after working hard for 95 minutes.”
Still, there might be some light at the end of the tunnel from this game. According to the Section XI website, the Suffolk Class C semifinals are scheduled for Nov. 2. All three League VII Class C sides are below .500. Greenport (5-7-1, 5-7-1) played a 0-0 tie with Hampton Bays on Tuesday while Pierson-Bridgehampton (3-8, 3-7) was defeated by Center Moriches, 5-0.
Southold interim coach Lucas Grigonis said Southold and Greenport will petition to compete in the tournament. “We are at least .500 in our class and we both had quality wins on top of that against Bs,” he said.
Grigonis felt Southold deserved a spot and that went beyond their record.
“This group, I’ve been with them for a long time,” he said. “They’re just a very good group of people and it makes them better players. And together we’re a good team because of that.”